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On Cooking Southern: Tailgating Salads, Salad Bites, and Salad Dips


By Laurie Triplette


Southernism of the Week

His family tree ain’t got no branches on it: A derogatory reference to a person’s inherent capability (or inability), implying serious inbreeding in the lineage of the person under discussion… not what a mother wants to hear about a prospective son-in-law…


The weather has cooled just enough, the sun is shining. Are we ready for some football? 

It’s time to tackle some serious tailgating in America’s capitol of collegiate tailgating. No offense to everybody else, and with apologies to my long-dead English teachers, I’m shouting to the world that The Grove is where it’s at!

There’s a reason why the nation keeps honoring the Ole Miss tailgating ethic — our fans have achieved professional status in preparing for every football weekend. And why not? After all, Oxford and Ole Miss comprise a community of serious foodies and gracious hosts.

During the coming weeks, I will dedicate several columns to tailgate fare. I thought it appropriate to begin with the healthy(ier) part of the day-long munchie fest. That’s why we are focusing this week on veggie salads, salad bites, and salad dips. All of these recipes may be made up in advance. I recommend storing them in a cooler on ice until time to serve.

Serve with disposable toothpicks and those really cute plastic mini-forks and spoons that are available at all the local grocery stores. 

Hotty Toddy, y’all.


Chef Salad Dip

Keep this salad/dip in the cooler until ready to serve. 

2 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese

1/2 c chunky blue cheese salad dressing (I use Marzetti)

1 to 2 c fine-chopped iceberg lettuce

1/2 c smoked ham slices, chopped

2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped

2 plum tomatoes, chopped fine

1/4 c crumbled blue cheese

4 slices bacon, crisp cooked and crumbled

1/2 c chopped green onion, OPTIONAL

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Crackers, baguette slices or corn chip scoops

Mix the cream cheese and dressing until blended. Spread evenly in bottom of a deep-dish pie plate. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. 

Top with remaining ingredients in layers according to sequence listed above.  Serve with crackers, baguette slices or corn chip scoops.


tortellini_antipastosaladDSCN7897I have made this salad using raw broccoli florets in place of the chopped spinach, and adding toasted pine nuts for crunch. Double the amount of salad dressing for these substitutions.

1-1/2 c Wishbone House Italian dressing

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 (20-oz) pkg of fresh three-cheese tortellini

1 (5-oz) pkg of pepperoni minis

2-oz jar of diced pimento, drained

4 oz sliced smoky provolone cheese, cut into small pieces

1 (14-oz) can of artichoke hearts, well drained, chopped

1 (2.25-oz) can of sliced ripe olives, drained

1 (15-1/4-oz) can of corn, drained

9-oz pkg frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed to remove water, and chopped

1/4 c chopped green onion

Whisk the dressing and mustard in a small bowl until completely blended. The mustard will thicken the dressing.

Prepare tortellini according to package instructions. Rinse and drain well. Combine with remaining ingredients in  a large bowl and toss to mix. Pour the dressing over the salad, using a spatula to scrape every bit. Gently fold several times to coat the salad. 

Refrigerate at least three hours to allow flavors to blend. Serve chilled or at room temperature. 


caprese_saladcups-DSCN78958 (1/2-cup size) Glad containers with lids

1 c finely chopped basil (at least two 2-3/4-oz pkgs)

3 large cloves garlic, minced and pressed

1/4 c chopped green onion

1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

3/4 to 1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 c extra light olive oil

1/4 c apple cider vinegar

4 twists of fresh ground black pepper

16-oz pkg pre-sliced fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped into small cubes

16-oz pkg of Campari or oversized cocktail tomatoes, diced

Rustic bread, sliced

Combine the chopped basil, garlic and onion in a small mixing bowl. Whisk in the olive oil, vinegar and pepper until completely blended. This may be refrigerated for several days before completing the salads. 

When ready to serve, bring marinade back to room temperature for about 30 minutes, Combine with the cubed mozzarella and diced tomatoes. Ladle into the plastic cups and cover. Serve with rustic sliced bread. Yields 4 cups — 8 servings.


marinatedBrussels-sproutsDSCN7873This simple dish is healthful and relatively fuss-free for tailgating. Use disposable toothpicks.

2 lb firm Brussels sprouts (equivalent to 2 pkgs)

Salt and pepper to taste

Two (16-oz) bottles of Wishbone Italian dressing

Prepare the Brussels sprouts by rinsing and cutting off woody bits on the bottom. Place in a double boiler steamer pot and sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Cover and steam (do not boil IN water) until tender, about 10 minutes. 

Turn off heat and let sit in pot, covered, for about 10 minutes. Turn out into a large mixing bowl. 

Pour the entire amount of salad dressing over the Brussels sprouts while still warm. Toss to coat.  Let sit for about 215 minutes and place in plastic storage container with tight fitting lid. Refrigerate overnight or at least 6 hours before serving. They taste better the longer they marinate in the fridge. 

Serve in a decorative bowl with some of the dressing marinade. Reserve remaining dressing for the leftovers, which will last up to two weeks in the fridge.

Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian, and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists (AFJ),Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA)  and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SOFAB). Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ web site and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter (@LaurieTriplette).

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